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Paolo Di Canio's debut match as Sunderland manager ended in defeat as Chelsea returned to third in the Barclays Premier League with victory at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea trailed at half-time to Cesar Azpilicueta's own goal, but Matt Kilgallon deflected into his own net after a surging run by substitute Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic directed a David Luiz shot into the Sunderland goal to put the home side in front after 55 minutes. It proved to be the winner as Chelsea returned above Tottenham on goal difference.
Di Canio, who was met warmly by Chelsea captain John Terry before kick-off, was given seven matches to ensure Barclays Premier League survival. He made three changes from Martin O'Neill's last match in charge - last weekend's defeat by Manchester United - with Connor Wickham, Sebastian Larsson and Kilgallon drafted in.
Arsenal's win over West Bromwich Albion yesterday, coupled with the defeat by Southampton last weekend, meant the Blues had slipped out of the top four before kick-off. In a scrappy first half the hosts struggled to test Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland were playing on the counter-attack and Stephane Sessegnon found Adam Johnson, whose curling shot was blocked by David Luiz before Craig Gardner was booked for a foul on Demba Ba.
The combination of the muscular Wickham and livewire Sessegnon caused trouble for David Luiz and Ivanovic, while Johnson was enjoying his afternoon against Ryan Bertrand, but Sunderland could not test Petr Cech as Chelsea often scrambled to recover in defence.
Eden Hazard's header from Oscar's cross was easily saved by Mignolet, before Sunderland broke and claimed a 45th-minute corner when David Luiz deflected Wickham's shot wide. Johnson's set-piece was flicked on by John O'Shea and Azpilicueta could only deflect the ball into his own net. Having been animated throughout, pacing in his technical area, Di Canio's celebration was muted.
Torres came on at half-time for Ba, whose movement was limited after Gardner's challenge, and his first act led to Chelsea's equaliser. Torres raced in off the left wing and found Oscar, who lost control of the ball as Mignolet raced to meet him. The ball ricocheted off the goalkeeper and hit Kilgallon before spinning into the far corner.
Chelsea also benefited from good fortune for their second after 55 minutes. Azpilicueta's long-range effort deflected out for a corner and Wickham failed to clear. David Luiz struck a low shot which Ivanovic cleverly turned in with a back-heel.
Hazard headed over from an Oscar cross before Gardner caught David Luiz as another meaty tackle left a Chelsea player requiring treatment. RafaelnBenitez was anxious enough to tell Terry to warm up, but David Luiz continued.
Another moment of worry for Chelsea came when Johnson went by Mikel and curled a shot around a post.
Di Canio urged his men on and introduced James McClean for Sebastian Larsson, while Wickham was left dazed after he was caught by a David Luiz elbow and required treatment. Di Canio's former West Ham team-mate Frank Lampard was introduced for the final skirmishes but Sunderland could not find an equaliser.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez: “I was really pleased with the team. We didn't start well and gave the ball away easily. We conceded a late goal but had a good reaction in the second half and were very positive.
“Fernando made an impact quickly and we were on top of them, scored two goals and had control of the game. We didn't score the third, we had to defend and after playing four games in eight days I am really pleased. The most important thing was to get the result and we did it.
“We're trying to play well, you'll win more games, but sometimes you cannot. The other team was organised and we didn't start well. The most important thing was we showed character and determination in the second half, and scored two goals.”
“Ba has a problem with his ankle but we will have to see tomorrow.'
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio: “I am more than happy for the first half. Chelsea obviously dominate when they keep the ball, against any other side at Stamford Bridge, but we were very organised.
“The second half was difficult. In the last few days I studied the players and I know exactly what they can give in energy. The two goals came from little mistakes, and we will work to give them more energy in the next few weeks. We have a short time but we are capable.”
|17 Apr 2013||v Fulham (A)|
|21 Apr 2013||v Liverpool (A)|
|28 Apr 2013||v Swansea (H)|
|05 May 2013||v Man Utd (A)|
|08 May 2013||v Tottenham (H)|
|11 May 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|